It’s election season in Tarrant County, which can only mean one thing — a surge of shameless fear-mongering and baseless assumptions of moral superiority by Republican candidates. Forget the fact that Tarrant’s powers that be are crumbling under the weight of unprecedented lawsuits, federal investigations, waning public trust, and endless blunders on the part of conservative leaders like Sheriff Bill Waybourn, DA Sharen Wilson, and longtime commissioner J.D. Johnson. What matters to Tarrant’s conservative leadership is that the wealthy elite and bigoted voters unite against perceived boogeymen like CRT and books that dare to teach kids that it’s OK not to be white, Protestant, or cisgender.
We say this because last week’s bogus trial of a former justice of the peace is yet another example of a criminal justice system that undermines its credibility by putting the self-serving aims of Tarrant’s good ol’ boy club over public interests. Jacquelyn Wright has powerful enemies who include current Precinct 4 commissioner J.D. Johnson. In 2018, after she lost her Republican primary reelection bid to Christopher Gregory, Johnson allegedly made it known that he wanted Wright out of office before her term ended at the end of 2018. Tarrant County’s public integrity unit went snooping, as they did recently at the Carroll school distinct, and found that Wright had made a mistake when filing her homestead exemption — something that is never prosecuted as a criminal matter in Tarrant County. In early 2021, a county report that cited findings from three companies that specialize in locating fraudulent homestead exemptions estimated that, at any given time, upwards of 37,000 homeowners live in a home with an improper homestead exemption in Tarrant County. Homestead exemptions allow homeowners to claim a special property tax deduction on their primary residence.
The DA put the full force of its taxpayer-funded resources behind indicting and prosecuting an elderly woman with a chronically sick husband.
Last week, an 11-member jury that was not allowed to hear testimony or see evidence about the political nature of the persecution, er, prosecution of Wright found her guilty on three counts of tampering with a government document. The former JP didn’t tamper with anything. She simply forgot to update her homestead exemption when she moved. Wright is appealing the conviction and requesting to move her case out of Tarrant County and away from further meddling by DA Wilson.
When setting punishment, Judge Daryl Coffey ordered Wright to pen a 50-page apology letter to Coffey within 90 days in addition to serving four years of probation, 10 days of county jail time, and paying a $2,500 fine. She doesn’t have to pay back any money to the county because she paid back what she owed for the outdated homestead exemption — a cool $10,000 — before she knew she was under investigation by the DA. Given the reasons Wright was unjustly targeted by the DA and our first-hand understanding of the cesspool that is Tarrant County politics, we offer the following writing topics for Wright’s consideration.
50 Pages on the Rampant Corruption and Racism of Local Republican Judges
We’re not saying that Judge Coffey voted for Donald Trump, but, like a lot of white male Republicans, he almost certainly wants to lick his boots. Tarrant County residents should be horrified that Republican judges who oversee important criminal and civil cases also worship a certifiable nonsense-spewing idiot who has been credibly accused of rape by nearly 30 women, refused to rent properties to Black tenants, and continues to use his time and resources to further the cause of white supremacy.
To anyone who pays attention, the idea that conservative judges would go all-in for the Cult of Trump makes perfect sense. Take Republican Judge Patricia Bennett of Tarrant’s 360th Judicial District Court. In 2018, she wrote on Facebook that a Hispanic state representative who had just lost his primary should be able to find a job in the hotel and food service industry, implying that that’s all Hispanics are good for. Bennett was publicly admonished by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. That’s it. They said, “Bad girl” and let her go about her business. She’s still holding court today.
Hmm … maybe Bennett should repeatedly write “I’m a racist piece of shit” for 50 pages.
Or take Fort Worth Municipal Judge Danny Rodgers, who, according to one 2019 human resources complaint, pines for the good old days when Blacks could be burned alive or hanged in public while hundreds of white Southerners laugh and enjoy picnics while viewing the spectacle. Rodgers, according to the complaint, told a female Black colleague how great life was back in the good old days when white people could own Black men and women.
“Judge Rodgers chose to share with me that his family owned a plantation and owned slaves,” the Black colleague wrote in her complaint. “He went on to say that he really loved plantations. His tone and conduct were very condescending, intimidating, and demeaning.”
Nothing was ever done about the complaint, as far as we could tell, and a city spokesperson declined to comment on the matter. Rodgers’ abhorrent behavior is currently under review by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, according to Isaiah X. Smith, a Black activist who filed the complaint on behalf of Rodgers’ Black colleague, who still works alongside the judge.
Judges aren’t the only elected officials who have no problem tying our criminal justice system to known racists.
On Monday, DA Sharen Wilson dispelled any doubt that our local criminal justice system serves the interests of racist bigots. Tim O’Hare, the county commissioner candidate who turned Southlake into a dumpster fire of right-wing paranoia over “Marxist” CRT programs, announced that DA Wilson has officially endorsed him.
“Tim O’Hare would make an outstanding County Judge for Tarrant County,” Wilson said publicly. “I’ve known Tim for years and can attest to his solid work ethic and commitment to servant leadership. He is honest, respectful, and the best choice for conservative fiscal management. I wholeheartedly endorse Tim for County Judge.”
For Wilson to call O’Hare “honest” is a public admission that our DA has gone all-in for a Republican party that has become untethered to reality. O’Hare’s press releases are packed with bullshit, mostly about his opponent, former Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price, whom O’Hare regularly paints as a card-carrying communist who performs abortions in her spare time.
The company Republican judges keep speaks volumes about the character and values of elected officials who seem to care more about furthering the cause of white supremacy and clinging to power than serving the ethnically and politically diverse community that is Tarrant County.
50 Pages on Insider Dealings at Precinct 4
It would be fitting for Wright to put Coffey’s bullshit writing assignment to good use by researching and documenting the rampant corruption that has characterized Precinct 4 dealings since J.D. Johnson took over nearly 40 years ago (“ Betting on the Good Ol’ Boys” Dec 2021).
When you’re on the inside of the good ol’ boy club, things look great. To his supporters and admirers, J.D. could do no wrong, and it’s a safe bet that J.D. thinks his favors and generous spirit make everything all right in the end. It doesn’t. Every time he awarded a contract or did a favor for a political donor, he betrayed the public trust. The county employees who witnessed those acts and did nothing — and there are many of them — are equally culpable.
It is not without irony that, of all places in Tarrant County, Precinct 4 was where government officials allegedly schemed against Wright. J.D. may have shown favoritism when a longtime donor’s business recently benefited from a brand-new road that cost county taxpayers $377,520.87, according to county records we reviewed and conversations with former county employees. Our research is ongoing but suggests that J.D. made a career out of awarding government contracts to political donors and personal friends.
And yet the DA’s public integrity unit is celebrating the conviction of an elderly woman who paid back $10,000 to the county after noticing she misfiled her homestead exemption form. When the hell is J.D. going to pay back the county funds that he misused?
50 Pages on How the Public Integrity Unit Served the Racist Interests of Tim O’Hare
The unprecedented indictment and prosecution of Wright for not updating her homestead exemption, a crime that leaves her with two misdemeanors and one felony on her once-clean record, bears stark similarities to another unprecedented indictment and prosecution — that of Carroll school board members Todd Carlton and Michelle Moore.
Both cases were investigated by the DA’s public integrity unit that is headed by assistant district attorney Lloyd Whelchel. Wright’s time would be well spent educating Judge Coffey about the other bogus prosecution that served the aims of political allies of DA Wilson. On Sep 23, Whelchel authorized a DA investigation into the allegations against the two school board members, and his decision suggests a coordinated effort to serve the aims of Southlake Families, a powerful and well-funded PAC that supports far right-wing candidates, and its alleged founder and current county judge candidate, Tim O’Hare. A Southlake police spokesperson told us they did not request an investigation into Carlton and Moore, when typically most cases that DAs accept come from local police. Government documents that we received via open records requests show that the DA launched its own investigation into Carroll school district without the aid or consent of a local law enforcement agency. Weird, no? l
This column reflects the opinions of the editorial board and not necessarily the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. Submissions will be edited for factuality and clarity.